Review: Neil Diamond's 50th anniversary tour revisits the golden days for a nostalgic Amalie Arena (with photos + setlist)

The 76-year-old went from Seagull to eagle with ease.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

Neil Diamond’s encore performance of “Sweet Caroline” featured three extra rounds of the 1969 hit single’s famed chorus. For a second — with what looked like the whole of a sold out Amalie Arena crowd on their feet — it felt like the 76-year-old would bring it back a forth time for the Tampa faithful. He didn’t, opting instead to power through the rest of the encore which featured Wrecking Crew collaboration “Cracklin’ Rosie,” the opening track from 1980’s The Jazz Singer, and the title cut from his 1969 Uni Records release Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show.

The trio of songs pulled from three different parts of the famed songwriter’s career, and they were a perfect microcosm of an evening that found an aging Diamond celebrating a career that’s lasted half a century.

Playlist: Listen to every song Neil Diamond played at Amalie Arena on April 23

At the surface level and taken separately (especially by someone who wasn’t around to follow Diamond’s evolution), it’s easy to categorize Diamond’s songs as products of another soft rock singer with big hits and a loyal fanbase. If you focused on his rise to mega-stardom on the backs of albums like You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and even September Morn, then you might be kind of right. You’d also be as salty as the rock critics who apparently wanted to write anything that might crucify Diamond’s move towards universal popularity.

Diamond’s career, just like the idea of an album, shouldn’t be taken piecemeal. For nearly two hours, the Brooklyn boy with a golden, 13-piece band made that very clear. He kicked the night off with one of his oldest songs (1966’s “Cherry, Cherry”) followed by Bang Records era hits “Kentucky Woman” and “You To Me,” but Diamond was not afraid to flex the exploration he did in early and mid 1970s. A suite of songs from 1973’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtrack got to spread out (with the band more than holding their own on pieces that play out quite intricately on record), and a healthy chunk of Beautiful Noise (Diamond’s 1976 concept album with Robbie Robertson as producer) served as a major highlight of the set with band members deploying accordion, trombone, trumpet and clarinet to make the “Jungletime” come alive before “If You Know What I Mean” turned on the water works.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

Diamond must’ve known that his rich, almost effortless, storytelling was going to move some folks (“and the radio played like a carnival tune/as we lay in our bed in the other room/when we gave it away for the sake of a dream/in a penny arcade, if you know what I mean,” the song goes) because he busted out a meditative performance “Dry Your Eyes” to pick everyone up off the ground.

Watching Diamond work though lyrics where he’s really trying to simplify the complex nature of human existence was the best part of the night, and he did it again on 1978 duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (no Babs, but there was a beautiful saxophone performance).

It was nice to to be reminded that good songs always stand the test of time because watching Diamond work the stage was a reminder that the body doesn’t always do the same. He didn’t ever struggle to get around, but Diamond’s movements from stage left to right were more like slow shimmies instead of the cover of Hot August NightThat gruff throated delivery fans love has mostly stayed intact (and almost reached max joyousness on a performance of “Soolaimon”), but the overall show wore the age a 50th anniversary tour should.

And that’s not to knock Diamond either. He’s earned the right to take this victory lap, and his fans — who undoubtedly showed up to check back in with a golden era of their own lives — gave the love right back. When you look at a new wave of indie rock songwriters and great live performers, you can’t help but think that they all studied the movements and grand lyrical moments of Neil Diamond. But the world will never see another Neil Diamond again — and we’re lucky to still have him around today.

Listen to a playlist featuring songs from the show here, and see more of Kamran’s pictures below.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Review: Neil Diamond's 50th anniversary tour revisits the golden days for a nostalgic Amalie Arena (with photos + setlist)
Kamran Malik

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

click to enlarge Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017. - Kamran Malik
Kamran Malik
Neil Diamond plays Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on April 23, 2017.

Setlist (stream / download)

Cherry, Cherry
Kentucky Woman
You Got To Me
September Morn
Love On The rocks
You’ll Forget
Beautiful Noise
Jungletime
If You Know What I Mean
Dry Your Eyes
Forever In Blue Jeans
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
I’m A Believer
Brooklyn Roads
Be
Lonely Looking Sky
Skybird
Soolaimon
Done Too Soon
[Unknown]
I Am...I Said

Sweet Caroline
Cracklin' Rosie
America
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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